When I was a little girl, I remember looking forward to daytrips to the beach and planning the kinds of sandcastles I would build. This is pretty normal for most kids, but there was always one thing, which seemed strange to me, only to be understood in my adolescence-we always brought bottled water to drink and never drank from other sources. While this did not faze me until my older years, I was unaware of the potential danger of the water that I was swimming in at this seemingly harmless scene.
The place was Toms River State Park, New Jersey and it would become known for its high levels of pollution caused by the illegal dumping of waste from Ciba Geigy’s dye manufacturing facility since the 1960’s. Both the water company and Ciba Geigy decided to keep this information hidden, and to treat the pollution with air stripping, removing the taste and smell from the water and causing normal appearances. The abnormal appearances were the unexplained increase in cancer rates within both children and adults from 1979-1991. An investigative reporter decided to look deeper where as the head officer of the county health department ignored the report.
The high presence of cancer upset the community and in 1996, the Citizens Action Committee for Childhood Cancer Cluster was formed, along with TEACH, Toxic Environment Affects Children’s Health. Poisoned water sources were removed and affirmative action was taken.
Jump ahead to 2016, where citizens of Flint, Michigan are outraged with yet another hidden line of pollution and health dangers imposed upon themselves and their families. Facing Federal investigation, Flint, Michigan chose to switch their water sources from Lake Huron to the Flint River as a cost effective measure until gaining Great Lakes access without Detroit’s water system. Next, the water become discolored and created health problems due to the high levels of Lead present in their water, causing issues such as property damage, psychological issues, dermatological impact, cognitive degeneration, poisoned blood and loss of vision. In children, there is a significant chance of developmental problems as well. A large part of the issue is that yet again, there was a prior knowledge of this for roughly two years without action being taken immediately for the sake of saving money.
At the local division, we see that Lititz water is being tested but at a minimum of 20 high-risk households per year to test the lead levels, and once every three years. After all these major cases of ignorance, how much money is truly being saved if everyone is facing health problems? It makes me mad as a parent because as a basic necessity, we should be able to have some feeling of safety in the water, which we must use for survival. According to lititzdailynews.com, “lead levels of at least 11 ppb (parts per billion) were discovered in 10 percent of homes sampled in one of the two areas served with water by the Warwick Township Municipal Authority,” matching figures for the first six months of 2015 in Flint, Michigan. What does it take for officials to decide that the public’s health is a sacrificial notion and a test site for cover-up treatments? How many kids have to get cancer before there is an official problem, all while increasing the cost of health treatments daily to re-balance their lives?
It appears that we are being informed more so from the Flint, Michigan outrages but would we have been informed if it were not for their negligence as health officials? As for me, I will be sticking to bottled water for a good while and so will my son. I can only hope that with the risks of overflow from the winter storm and proximity to potentially tainted water sources that my son will not be harmed. As a public, we deserve to know the truth of what we are drinking, bathing in, cooking with and using as a means for basic human survival.